Monday 16 May 2011

Movie Reviews - Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane
Walt Disney Pictures
In cinemas from 18/05/2011 in 2D and Disney Digital 3D
Review by Rob Wade

Johnny Depp returns to his iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow in this action-packed adventure that finds him crossing paths (and swords) with the enigmatic Angelica. When she forces him aboard the “Queen Anne’s Revenge”, the ship of the legendary pirate Blackbeard, Jack finds himself on an unexpected journey to the fabled Fountain of Youth. Along the way Jack must use all his wiles to deal with the barbarous Blackbeard and his crew of zombies, Angelica, the ravishing pirate with whom he shares a dubious past, and the beautiful, enchanting mermaids whose masterful cunning can lure even the most seasoned sailor to his doom.

After the lukewarm critical reception for the two most recent films in the series, it was clear that something needed to be done in order to make the series great in the eyes of the movie-going public. Let's be fair: these movies will always do well in the cinemas purely based on the success of the Captain Jack Sparrow character, so all they really needed to do was have a strong movie in the background. Thankfully, they've been more successful at doing this on this occasion.

It's a fairly safe bet that you can make a movie with as complex and elaborate a story as you want, and it will still fall flat on its face if the cast is not up to scratch. Now, the story in this movie is not as elaborate and complex as more cerebral viewers might want, but realistically that's not your average blockbuster movie-goer, which is the demographic that this movie is aiming for. However, the cast is excellent. Depp is of course enjoyable to watch as Sparrow, as it's clearly a role that he has fun performing. Penelope Cruz does a great job of coming across as strong while at the same time feminine (and she is the ultimate hotness, which probably helps that along). Geoffrey Rush is awesome as Barbossa, another in a role that clearly works for him.

What was also nice to see was that there were a number of English actors in smaller roles that are recognisable, and I found myself noticing the less subtly placed Dame Judi Dench, Richard Griffiths and Keith Richards in small yet awesome roles. More refreshing, though, was the placement of lesser-known actors, such as Paul Bazely (who some may recognise as appearing in a hell of a lot of British sitcoms, such as The I.T Crowd and Green Wing) as well as Stephen Graham (of Snatch and Gangs of New York fame). The star of the show, however, for my money was Ian McShane as Blackbeard. Coming across as a tough yet vulnerable villain is no easy feat, particularly when the vulnerability is unusual, and McShane is utterly superb in this role. The entire cast is really good, from the main parts all the way down to the smaller roles, which helps the film along immensely.

The story, while as stated above not exactly the deepest, most twist-filled story of them all, certainly does the job in getting the characters to the right places at the right times, and is written well in this regard. The set pieces, in particular, are done really well, and of particular note is the camera work during the fight scenes which makes things nice and easy to follow, even during the faster points. The comic relief, as well, is done outstandingly, and I was surprised at times to hear jokes that were quite a bit more risqué than one would expect from a Disney movie, which seemed like good fan service to the ever-ageing movie-going crowd (for example, did you know that the original movie is now 8 years old? Incredible, isn't it?).

It's by no means a perfect movie, however. The plot, while well done and very fit for purpose, does lend itself to some predictable points as the film progresses. The last couple of set pieces in particular are a little on the easy side when it comes to guesswork. Also, I saw the movie in 3D, which for my money actually made certain scenes more difficult to follow. Don't get me wrong. The movie works well in 3D for the most part, but particularly during fast-moving swordfights, the 3D actually serves to make it significantly more confusing to follow what's going on. If you're one of these people who has to see everything in 3D, then go for it. Just don't say I didn't warn you. For those others not sure what to see it in, the parts which work well in 3D would work fine in 2D as well.

Overall though, the movie is a great watch, ticking all the boxes that fans have come to expect while at the same time doing it a little differently. Without going into too much detail, it's clear from the culmination of the movie that this franchise is going to be around for a long time, and after watching this movie I couldn't be more excited about that.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: Swords and guns. What were you expecting?
Sex/Nudity: Cleavage and some boobs strategically covered by hair.
Swearing: "Bastard" gets chucked out once.
Summary: An enjoyable movie, and a welcome return to form for the franchise. 8/10

P.S - This is aimed at a select group of people at the screening that I attended, though if it applies to you feel free to take heed.

There's a reason they tell you to turn your phone off when you go in. It's not because they're so worried about piracy anymore (3D has sort of taken care of that). It's that it's really bloody annoying to be dazzled in a dark auditorium by some prat who wants to play Angry Birds until the movie actually starts. And if you can't wait two hours to check your email/texts/Facebook/Twitter until you leave the cinema, your life has become devoid of meaning, and you live inside your phone. Get a life, and be more considerate of those who wanted to actually *watch* the movie as opposed to just getting to say they'd been to see it early, or indeed simply not be distracted by the glare of your phone.


One of Tsutsui's best-known and most popular works in his native Japan, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is the story of fifteen-year-old schoolgirl Kazuko, who accidentally discovers that she can leap back and forth in time. In her quest to uncover the identity of the mysterious figure that she believes to be responsible for her paranormal abilities, she'll have to push the boundaries of space and time, and challenge the notions of dream and reality.

After the succes success of Paprika, Hell, The Maid and Salmonella Men on Planet Porno, this is the fifth work by one of the greatest and most acclaimed living Japanese writers to be translated into English, displaying all the author's dry humour and relish for the absurd.

Thanks to our friends at Alma Books, we've got two copies of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name to before midday on Monday 23rd May, making sure to put "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" as the subject. The first two entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is available now, priced £7.99.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.


  1. ha ha! love your litte rant! i feel the same about mobiles. drives me bloody nuts! were you at the preview screening in leicester sq cos i was there too